Monday, January 25, 2016

History Needs Trump Political Correctness

History refers to what actually happened. True, that's not always been the case in history books. However when I say history, that's what I'm referring to. Not the winner writing history to support their views as has often been the case.

Political correctness is a valued concept. Up to a point. When political correctness comes up against history, history needs always to win over being political correct. Always. And it may not always be pretty.

Paying attention to accurate, transparent history keeps us on the path of moderating our future in the most benign and reasonable directions.

Sorry, nothing here about Donald J. Trump, per se. However, the needs of history, do trump the need for political correctness. To sum up, we need to face our true and actual history, rather than bow to the need for political correctness, even at the expense of hurting a few feelings here and there. But what should only be a few, very delicate personality types and not the majority of a nation.

I would like to make a short side step here about group intelligence and how the group intelligence decreases with increases in size (for some groups). This is discussed on Nova Spevack. Think GOP or in your country, conservatives (most likely), and not GOP groups (or non conservatives, or progressives or liberals if you like). This is true seemingly with these conservatives. Why? Denying reality, obviously for them but not with others. Again, why? Using reality as cleanly as possible to achieve progress. The GOP and conservatives by definition are not progressive and thus well, you get the idea. Or you're a conservative, possibly. Because it ain't rocket science.

Side note, here's John Cleese on negative effects of overly PC behavior on campus.

Okay, getting to the point....

Recently I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher (episode 374, January 22, 2016)​. Bill showed a video clip you might remember from last fall of a Yale college student yelling at Yale faculty member, Nicholas Christakis. The student was upset about a "politically incorrect" topic regarding Halloween costumes, in part because of a letter sent out by Nicholas' wife Erika, another faculty member.

Something the student screamed at Nicholas hit me. She screamed:

"It is not about building an intellectual space. It is not. Do you understand that?  It's about creating a home here."

I beg to differ, actually. Where exactly do you really think you are? Why do you think you are there?

I highly resent her screaming at any faculty member to, "Be quiet!" She is apparently not learning at least some of what she should be learning in being there, at a University, at Yale University.

That was the first indicator of her going off the tracks prior to her next statements.

As the NY Times article on this indicates, Yale does have problems. I'm not denying that. I'm not denying the student may (or may not) have reason to be as upset as she was. Let's step aside from that for a moment as that's not at all what I'm wanting to talk about here.

Maybe I shouldn't address this topic at all as I'm really only addressing something she said and it really has little to do with the actual controversy she was yelling about. I won't wimp out, my opinion can be shared, then I want to get to my point.

If you want to take me to task on any of this, please do so about what I'm about to get into and not the Halloween costume issue, because I'm really concerned more about an even bigger issue. Just as the girl in the video should be. So try not to get sidetracked.

Let me explain. I've read the letter the girl is upset about and I agree its author, Erika. She really hasn't said anything that remarkable. Except perhaps, to overly politicized young people in college reading it.

Halloween is essentially and by definition, "Politically Incorrect Day".

First and foremost, it was originally for dressing up to scare demons away. You don't do that looking perfect, you look offensive. People now are just offended that they may be the ones offended and not the demons. But that is what demons are, our fears, inside us. So wear whatever you want.

"Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Over time, in the United States the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses." - Wikipedia


"Halloween costumes in the contemporary Western world sometimes depict people and things from present times and are sometimes read in terms of their political and cultural significance. Halloween costumes are sometimes denounced for cultural appropriation when they uncritically use stereotypical representations of other groups of people. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Secretary Julie Myers was involved in a scandal when she awarded "Best Costume" at the ICE Halloween party to an 'escaped Jamaican prisoner' dressed in dreadlocks and blackface."

The costumes are now of a blend that has evolved over the years out of Ireland and Scotland and have included various associations, both good and bad. The purpose of the Halloween costume is fundamentally to evoke a reaction. Be it of fear, humor, dismay or simply irritation, it is the one night a year where this has generally been culturally accepted. Sociologically speaking, it s a relief valve for a society such as America where racial and other tensions have sought a pressure release. You can "let your hair down", be not yourself, and make fun without too much fear of reprisals.

In today's climate of over political correctness, especially on college campuses, thanks to the parents of the students raising their children with their paranoia about making a mistake either in childrearing or in social interactions, we find these children have attempted to continue on their parents path in a mistaken effort that more is better.

Initially what was fear of others, because a fear of offending others, which in an effort to be as polite as possible has degenerated into a fear campaign of far too many things becoming socially unacceptable with people expressing an inability to laugh at things that are validly funny out of a concern of being ethnically insensitive.

We should be able to take it on the chin and move on as adults. We will not all find all other's humor funny at times. But that doesn't mean we have to chastise and demand rulings to eliminate these things. That only attempts to systemically remove some of the social lubricant that is so needed in such a large and diversified nation.

I fully agree with what Erika says in closing her letter:

"Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.
"But – again, speaking as a child development specialist – I think there might be something missing in our discourse about the exercise of free speech (including how we dress ourselves) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment?
"In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that."

Now, that being said I know for a fact how some young college students can take wearing any costume over the top and to the point of simply trying to be mean spirited. That kind of behavior is abhorrent and needs to be dealt with so students can wear any costume. Yet they need to have some sense of how their actions inflame and conflagrate feelings in others.

Where they may have been reasonably passable in the appearance, they may not be in how the individual acts while wearing the costume. That really is about manners though, even when inebriated at a Halloween party or going about where there are not those who have been involved with their evening's festivities.

Some sensitivity would be appreciated, but too much is still too  much. Grow a pair.

Bill Maher has said on his show regarding the perceived reason behind a lack of policy at Yale regarding Halloween costumes:

"Which is what these days they call a microaggression. Which begs the question, if it is a microagression, shouldn't it just make you microangry?"

A university IS 100% first and foremost about creating an intellectual space.

It IS after all, a University. It is NOT high school where teachers have to worry about hurting student's feelings because... they actually are children. At a university you expected to practice being an adult. You are learning and practicing to be educated as adults who will then have to one day go out into the big bad world and deal with real issues of racism, abuses of power and discrimination on so many levels that it can sometimes make your head spin.

A university is not your local community center. It IS a place of HIGHER learning.

That begs of its students to be involved, but also to be involved correctly and appropriately and in the way most conducive to learning. That requires that educators tear apart these young minds and rebuild them. They are paid, especially in the more intense and prestigious universities, to put massive amounts of knowledge into young pliant minds that have trouble accepting so much information. And it hurts.

Still, student after student, year after year, decade after decade and, century after century have pulled it all together and succeeded. Though some fail and some do drop out. Not everyone make it through a university or college even, to graduate. But you figure a way, you do the job, you heal every day and then go back, force in more and you learn to how and how to do it and use it. How to be effective to go on, hopefully to do great things after you graduate. If, you graduate.

The "home" thing is a byproduct of all that.

I don't really much care if you find a university home or not, you emotionally lazy child. You are there to build your mind, to open your mind, to find new avenues to explore and new ways to deal with them in productive manners. If you feel so comfortable that you have or, you have to have a "home" during that period, I'm not so sure you're doing your job. It sounds to me like by her own admission in her video rant that Yale is actually succeeding at building an intellectual space. That is their job.

Frankly, when I was in college I had what she is yelling about in finding a home at my university. But when I got there, it really, really challenged me. I was plenty uncomfortable a lot in the amount of knowledge being shoved down my intellectual throat. But I took it, I thrived on it. I kept going. I found things I didn't like, but I found ways to understand it, to talk to people about it, without screaming at them like a child.

It can be tough, growing up.

We were warned in my first college, one that was top in Washington state at the time (a two year community college which eventually got accreditation as a full college), that if and when we ever went on to a university, it would be very hard work. That it would make what we thought was hard work at the time look like a joke. And let me tell you, it did. My first week at my university was a nightmare, an eye opening experience. I wasn't sure at first if I could even do it.

The first class that first day at university gave us forty pages to read that NIGHT to be prepared for the lecture material that next day. I was in shock. I got to my next class and got just about the same amount of reading. I entered my third class like a zombie and got the same for that class. A friend living in the same house I lived in, who was also in her third year but had been at the university from the beginning, had some compassion and helped my gf and I through that first week.

We survived and as my previous college philosophy teacher had said, "when you get to university, you will rise to thee occasion and succeed." And we did.

My life there became a home to me. My apartment was home and eventually I felt at home in my classes. But, it was not "home" in the sense that I wasn't challenged on a daily basis with new ideas, with things even shocking or fear provoking, that I'd not known about. I was around people who saw things differently and not all I thought were correct.

We worked it out, and moved on. And many times I leaned I was the one who was wrong. Or at times we found out together we were both wrong. See, that's what the professors were for. To show us, and to help us, find our way. But it never occurred to me to scream at them for my own failings. Which many times I couldn't see for some time.

I had one professor at my university who was amazing. Mind big as a planet. He was gruff, harsh at times, and didn't suffer fools lightly. He said politically incorrect things, even some sexist things, and yet, women loved him, be they faculty, administration or students. Some ran away from him, fearful.

Mostly those were the ones with a delicate sensibility. I however, ran toward him, as did a few others I knew. I saw a bright light in him and felt it was worth his weight in gold just to be near enough to him to learn, even and especially outside of class.

A few years ago some students tried to get his tenure removed, to see him kicked out of  the university because he was hard, difficult and at times politically incorrect.

By the way, two of my short stories, both medieval tales of horror have him to thank for their pointed focus and clarity. They are, Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer, and The Mea Culpa Documen of London, I had shared them with him one day, just hanging out in his office in the theatre department and he offered to help after scanning one of them. Both stories have been rich enough that they have grown over the years and one, "Poor Lord Ritchie", was chosen by actor Rutger Hauer in his international short story contest back in 2004.

That professor was himself a student of medieval literature and his mental catalog of history is monumental. He had wanted to do the "Mea Culpa" story as a one man stage play, which would have been amazing. But sadly I graduated and moved away before that could come to fruition.

Myself and some of my old friends, ex students of his, rose up and wrote letters to the administration in his defense. We explained how much we learned from him, agreed that he can indeed be tough and rough, but if you can bear with him he really is a treasure. We need at last a few people like him at universities. I learned as much from him at times in a week as I did from others in a month or an entire quarter of the school year. He would beat on your mind and at times it hurt. I went home a few times, feeling slightly damaged.

But I pulled myself together in realizing what he was doing. When I realized how much I had learned in a mere hour of his time. So I went back and never gave up. He appreciated those students and never let up himself. He was there for you, if you were there for you. He was not unlike the coach who works your muscles to the bone and in the end, you win the superbowl. Or the military drill instructor who you truly hate and despise, until you are in actual battle and realize that what abuse he gave you, just saved your life.

That professor is still tenured and still teaching at my old beloved alma mater.

Look. Life is tough. It is at times a real bitch. We need to deal with it, get prepared for it, triumph over it. Because living our lives is not just about us, but also about everyone. We each play our role in the overall picture. We each make life a little harder, or a little easier on our fellow humans.

The "home" that student was screaming about in the video, wasn't in my mind what she was there at a university for. Impassioned? Yes, she was that. Quite so and all very well and good, I'll give her that. That is in part what you should be doing. Being passionate. But pick the right time and place. And use your skills to debate and interact. And that wasn't what she was doing. Not at all.

Calling for Christakis to step down because his wife Erika sent out an email saying to lighten up?When there are real issues to be dealing with, she chooses Halloween costumes to be irate about to the point of delusionally thinking university iife is supposed to be homey and comfortable to that degree?

Really? Grow up, child. And there are many adult children about our country nowadays, when there are real issues we need to be dealing with.

All I could think of while she was berating Nicholas was that he was merely doing his job and simply not doing the job she was demanding of him. Demanding of him like a spoiled little rich kid or something. I kept thinking, that poor son of a...well, that poor guy. And it was after all Yale and I'm not saying she is rich. Just that that was how she was coming off, acting privileged, immature, spoiled. I don't know if he wanted to smack her even a little bit at the time, but know I did.

You don't tell your betters to shut up like that. Not a faculty member, not by a student. Not when you're trying to get your point across. THAT is abuse, my dear. You were the abuser in that situation. Think about that for a moment and how you hadn't yet earned the right to scream at a professor like that, if ever you will.

And yes, there are indeed people who are better than you and me and you and I are most likely better than some others. That is reality. Not everyone who competes gets a trophy. Deal with it. It sucks. But if you don't learn it as soon as possible, the world will eat you alive.

The concept of someone better than you, is yet another thing that has died a dastardly death for good and poor reasons, but fundamentally for purposes of political correctness.

It is a concept that does not mean racism, does not mean economical difference, but as in this case, as she came to the university, as she selected to put herself in that masochistic role that all students must put themselves into in order to be allowed to study, to learn under the tutelage of those who are better skilled and better educated, who are in fact expected to be better then the students, or they shouldn't be teaching. Nor should these "betters" be teachers in that position over students if they are not better than the students in the reason they are the teaching them.

We seem to have lost the ability to be reasonably humble in the appropriate circumstances and for all the right reasons. As a student you do not know it all, otherwise you would not be at a university.

In the beginning and in the end it is NOT about creating a homelike university environment. That can be a by product however and hopefully so. But that is up to the students. One of my professors found that his university, Brown University back in the 1960s was wrong about some policy. They talked to the administration.

They got nowhere. So they took over and shut down the administration building until they got the attention they needed. There was no yelling or disrespect on either side and an amicable resolution was reached. The administration wasn't happy, but they came to realize they were wrong. No guns, no ridicule. Things were handled professionally and appropriately. That isn't always the answer, things don't always go that smoothly, but then they issues they were dealing with were much more important than Halloween costumes too. Yes, racism is important. I don't believe as I've pointed out however, that this is the issue in this case.

Universities already have enough to contend with. It is for the student to work that out. It IS however the purview and the charter of the university to build an intellectual environment. I suspect and submit that Yale has done just that.

This issue also ties loosely or tightly depending on how you view it, with the controversy of late about the American Confederate soldiers carved into Stone Mountain in Georgia. And the controversy over the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford where students groups want it removed. The Chancellor has said it should remain and that people should face history and should address and talk about such things. I agree.

It is good this is being discussed in both, or all instances. However, as I've alluded to above over the Yale incident, these are mature institutions, referring to the universities. They are places where students and faculty wrestle with higher learning, and reality, with what actually happened in history and the facts of the world as it is.

Therefore I would submit we do not turn away from history or reality. We should not hide from it. Should the confederate flag have been brought down, in relation to that recent controversy? Yes, in that case that was the right thing to do, to put it into a museum where it can be properly displayed and the proper description and history given about it. But that was a different situation.

The reality is that many have done well in the Rhodes Scholar program and it was something good a bigot once did, an alum of the university. As with Stone Mountain, while many will visit the monument to praise the racist actions of those men carved into the mountain, it is also a part of history.

To whitewash history is to one day possibly repeat it again.

Rather than destroy Stone Mountain, rather than remove the Rhodes statue both should remain for posterity with a new, accurate, appropriate and full account of the legacy of these individuals posted for all people to read as they view either of these, or view any other like images.

People in the future need to see these things, to be able to appreciate them, either in disgust or perhaps even in loving admiration. I believe however that over time as we mature as a people, we will see these things for what they are. As indicators of where we came from and how things can go awry. As a warning of where not to go in the future, because we have been there before and it led to misery for many. It will lead to a disappearing of those types once venerated who will be seen in the appropriate light of dismay.

To turn away from who we have been, even in part, is childish and dangerous.

We need to be reminded of what is bad in life and in history so we avoid it in the present and the future. Children, strive to avoid the ugly because it frightens or offends them.

Adults view the ugly with open eyes and ears.

In colleges and universities they discuss, debate and conclude what is best. Not shy away from the ugliness in the world only then to one day, either by accident or intent, head once again down those paths only to repeat what was once viewed as ugly. Then because it was hidden and not always in the forefront of our minds, with reminders sprinkled about the world so that we should never forget, to find too late we are repeating once again that which we once and finally had judged an illness and a blight upon humanity.

Religions tend to shy away from the ugly in life too. Those that do are weak. In Islam covering women, avoiding under pain of death many of the things life has to offer, is not a strength, but a weakness. It takes personal human responsibility, institutionalizes it, and allows religion and not the person to take on the weight of following what can be good in the world. And it has led to horrors. Yes, yes, Islam has done good, but when it does good we do not have to worry or act. But when it goes awry, horrors happen.

Which is more "Godlike"? A man who walks down a street and sees women in Hijab and Burka and sees nothing unholy? Or one who walks though a nudist colony and sees naked women and maintains his Godlike attitude and demeanor?

Religion in some sense makes us weaker, not stronger.

Evangelical Christianity has done much of the same in different ways. Many religions take on the role of having their believers avoid rather than deal with what they consider ugly, unholy, or anti spiritual. It is a con. It is all an ancient attempt to distance humans from animals. It was perhaps originally an attempt in a good way, but one that almost instantly goes wrong.

Religion is so deeply ingrained in so many human cultures as to have become secularized to the point we don't even realize when we are doing it, even when one claims to be an atheist. So some of us, especially the religious among us, even in their perceived good intents, at times take us in the wrong direction. One of ignoring or avoiding what is bad, rather than dealing with it head on. To make us stronger, to remind us, to not allow us to one day again go a direction down which we never wished to go again.

So no, we should not remove these tributes to the ugliness in people.

ESPECIALLY, when great beauty has been done by those on the side of great ugliness. For even in those evil ones there can be beauty. For we are all in the end, human. Delusional at times, adherents to the darker nature of human beings and others, but we are all still just human.

So why in God's name, or better still, in the name of Humanity, would we want to remove reminders that some people who have done, believed in or supported some very dark things in our history, have actually done some very good things in the vein of Cecil Rhodes? Why would we want to forget, as in the case of Stone Mountain, what damage was once done in the times of the American Civil War?

In a much smaller sense, in that of Halloween costumes, would we want to restrict the wearing of politically incorrect costumes for a single night each year, when it will quite obviously lead to discussion and debate in the days following that annual release of tensions and hopefully, some amount of hilarity?

It shows our intellectual maturity and our ability to deal with the disagreeable in being able to look at things such as these in a logical and productively argumentative fashion. Whereas to only satiate ourselves in overly impassioned and knee jerk reactions to what we find offensive, does not. This is not all just about you, as you pass through a university. It is also about those who come after. Possibly your children one day who will also find the disagreeable you discovered, and would also debate it among themselves.

These are debates we need not to lay forever to rest, especially in a university environment. Some of these are arguments that have been going on since the time of Aristotle and before and will continue to be debated into the future.

Unless, we hide from them.

Rather than hide these things we should put them out in in the light, shine light upon them, leave them out front all of us to see. Label them for what they are and deal with them appropriately, openly, communally. For only then can we stand tall and have something to point to where we can say:

"See? We have come a long way. Through great pain and suffering we have become more than we once were."

To never again return to what was base and horrible in humankind, in what those things were that we once did. What, if we are not aware and vigilant we could return to again, at any time, as we have seen over and over in having forgotten yet again. As we see now in terrorist groups, political bigots, and religious political extremists.

We need to face up to the world. We need to face up to reality. We need to face up to who we are, who we can be, and who we don't want ever to be again.

Because we constantly do face up to it. Because we strive always to be more than we are and never to backslide.

Because we are better than that.

And now, this....

ELECTION 2016 -18 Reasons Why Donald Trump Is a Vulgar, Two-Bit Caesar, According to America's Conservatives.

And this....

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Why Are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah?

Finally this (since I ripped off their "And now, this..." segment):

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Monday, January 18, 2016

Anti-Fear Mongering 101 (or 516) Chuck Lorre Style

I said last week I'd try to make my next blog lighter. After watching the Big Bang Theory the other night, Chuck Lorre's vanity card, always at the end, just felt like it needed to be shared with people. 

First of all wishing you all a more hopeful, free and compassionate
Dr. Martin Luther King Day!

So here it is, my lighter blog, at the expense of plagiarizing Chuck's brilliant and astute mind:


President Roosevelt famously said, "...the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." Now, let's take a moment and ask ourselves, which presidential candidates and cable news networks are actively promoting fear? Which one of these people and corporate entities are determined to scare your pants off, in the hope that you'll either vote for them or stay tuned? Or let's approach this from a different angle. After millions of years of evolution, or six days of divine creation, it doesn't really matter which, our brains are wired to seek out danger and respond accordingly. Fight or flight or, if it's not trying to eat you, negotiate. 

It makes sense then, that presenting a threat to our survival is a time-tested way to get the brain's attention. And let's be clear about one thing; attention is the most valuable commodity in the world. Once you have someone's attention you can sell them something, or, if you're the kind of person who is frightened of self-determined people, control them - while reassuring them that your only concern is their right to be self-determined. (This is not to say that there aren't people who have ample reason to be afraid. I'm just gonna go out on a limb and say you're probably not one of them.) 

So the real question to ask yourself is not who or what should you be afraid of, it's how are you doing right now. Go ahead. Ask yourself. Are you in jeopardy right now? Of course not. You're squinting at this vanity card and perhaps wondering if there's a clever joke at the end of it. (Spoiler alert: there is not.) 

This means that whatever you're afraid of, or being encouraged to be afraid of, is in your mind. It is not in your living room, or just outside your door. You're thinking it. Which is good news. That's the one thing you have control over. At any moment, you can take a break from thinking scary thoughts, or, if you're like me and have a mind run amuck, you can choose to ignore them. Even better news, once you're free of self-imposed fear, you're much less likely to seek out an old, white guy to protect you. (Well, maybe there is.)

Thank you Chuck. Love that guy!

I heard something interesting. That Obama did very well inside the establishment, as screwed up as it is. Let's face it, he could have done so much more if they hadn't just decided to block him at every tern whether he had good ideas or intentions or not, regardless.

What we have now in Hillary and Bernie is another candidate who wants to work inside the establishment to evoke change and one who doesn't. One who thinks we fundamentally need to make some changes. Rather than working from inside of a broken system, attempt finally to fix it.

Some people see Hillary as bad when it's just that she wants to work within the system, which she knows oh so well. While Bernie thinks we need not to be doing that anymore, that it's time to try something different.

Obviously it is. The discrepancy is in the belief of how possible that may turn out to be.

Some people think he can't win because of that and Hillary will because of it. The other side is terrified of him because he means change in the status quo and as we all know, conservatives are essentially allergic to that. Some so much so to the point that they will pick up guns, mostly out of fear. Because they are afraid. Fearful. Shaking in their boots. I wonder sometimes where American courage disappeared to in some groups.

They would rather continue being abused by the current system, than take any chance whatsoever to fix it, all because it means any degree in change in the status quo. You know I don't so much think they are bad people, or even that they want to keep the current status quo.


They are terrified of the prospect of any change whatsoever in the status quo, that IS.

I can have compassion for people like that. And I can vote against them. Because they are wrong and need to have some grit and perspective. Some good old American, grit.

For anyone else in this situation in any other country, you too need the same for yourself I bet. Some good old Russian grit. Or French grit. Or Iranian. Or even... North Korean grit.

Just hang in there. Because wherever you are now, times they are definitely a changing. And for the better, too.

If... we all just keep at it.

The follow meme is from a friend of mine, a poet. And, it is so true. And we do see it on both sides of the political coin. 

I have to say though, it's a thorough description of many conservatives I know and most who I hear in the media. It is not however representative of most liberals and certainly not any of the ones I know personally or would even wish to associate with. It's important to hear the comments from the other side but when they comments vear sharpy into the silly, the inane or the insane, just how long are we supposed to bear their philosophical detritus?

So I'll leave you with my friend Kelley White's thoughts (click on image for expansion or it on her Facebook page). Her thoughts on, as she titled it, Cognitive Distortions in Political Discourse:


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bernie, Hillary, and the Republican Party - in brief

It's an election year here in America. So I'm going to have a special bulletin like they do on TV. Here, you can even have an interesting and relevant video from Robert Reich on it. So this is an extra Saturday blog this week. And here we go.... There was some talk on cable last night about how Obama has done quite well manipulating within the Washington system. Even against the opposition. Hillary in her view of healthcare coverage is and will too, working her best possible effort on it, as she knows it and from within the system. Within the government AND the political system. That pisses republicans off, but it keeps them sane. Bernie knows how to play both government and political roles too. But in the healthcare situation and others, he's looking at the government and not the political roles in a solution. We have always (certainly in the last 20-30 years) had to work within the system to work the government. While actual government work gets diluted or at times, forgotten. Bernie is so desirable because he's not playing the old crony game. He's playing the old government game. Forget about the office manipulators keeping you from real work, just push the product, complete the tasks, get the job done. That's what I see going on between liking Hilary and Bernie...and between them and our government. I think a lot of what Hillary will do looks different to Bernie people than it is and I think a lot of what she does looks to republicans different even more than that from what it is. But they understand her, know how she will work and she knows how to play them. But Bernie has got to be scaring them. In a way Trump is too, but he's on their team (sort of, well, maybe, or, maybe not). Although Bernie will play the game too, as we've also seen with Obama lately, possibly in more ways we have yet to see by either of them, republicans may find they're not all playing the same game. And it will really piss them off. As it already has. Hey, who likes feeling powerless?). They are so out of step with reality though that this is going to happen to them with Hillary, too. In the end, it's all going to be about how Hillary and Bernie go about it all. How weil each method will work...and for whom.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Food vs Naionalism

Last week was a hopeful and light blog. This week's is also (hopeful if not light), but with some dry and serious words in getting there. Next week I'll try to lighten up again. Please just know that I am hopeful things will get better as long as we look around and act not like the ostrich burying its head in the sand. I wish not to be paranoid as I see so much of in American conservatives and right wing Republican politics, candidates and politicians. But to be as knowledgeable and mature in thought as is possible.

We have got to see what is really going on and we have to act accordingly.

UNRELATED UPDATE: I would just like to say I am very sad to have heard that David Bowie has died from cancer that he has been fighting for the past year and a half. He will be missed. Here is a tribute from Rick Wakeman previously of the band Yes.

On Fareed Zakaria's show GPS Sunday January 10, 2015, Garry Kasparov was a guest hawking his new book, Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped and talked about the state of Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

From his own page: "Garry Kasparov is a Russian pro-democracy leader, global human-rights activist, business speaker and author, and former world chess champion."

As for Putin, let's not forget his past as one's origin definitely has an impact on one's career and future. Vladimir Putin as you know went into the KGB in 1975. That was coincidentally the same year I entered the US Air Force as a Law Enforcement specialist. Some years later, after having held a Secret security clearance for nuclear weapons, I exited the service for university work just after being vetted and accepted into the OSI (Office of Special Investigations), the Air Force's FBI. You know I actually used to read "FBI" magazine in their offices and yes, there is (or was anyway) actually a magazine titled, "FBI".

Regarding President Putin, as Wikipedia puts it:

"Putin joined the KGB in 1975 upon graduation, and underwent a year's training at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. Putin was reportedly evaluated by KGB superiors as "flawed", unsocial and with a "lowered sense of danger." Which means, he was brave to the point of being dangerous. Not exactly who I would want in control of sending people into harm's way.

Getting back to the GPS show, Kasparov had some interesting things to say to Fareed about Putin and Russia. Things that resonated with me about America and even the world over today.

For one thing, in cutting to the chase, he said that "Every day Putin stays in power, any delay in confronting him will simply raise the price."

I'm seeing this here in America about our own Conservatives, the Republican party and our crazy element. We are seeing so called right wing "militias" types, delusional in their own self importance and spurred on by capitalistic nonsense from conservative radio and news shows like Rush Limbaugh and the sadly but sometimes laughable Fox News pundits. Fox News it is no secret, acts as a kind of disconnect branch of the Republican Party here.

We need to stop these nuts in our country from taking up news cycles, from holding America hostage and from wasting our time and money. When really we need to be addressing serious issues. Even world wide issues. But certainly issues here at home that are  important to every citizen in every home in America.

Just as they are in Russia and elsewhere.

On the show Kasparov spoke of his mother who was alive during the Soviet Stalin years. Back then he said, Stalin was professing many of the things that Putin now says, with one remarkable exception.

Stalin spoke of friends they have around the world, and of hope.

Where Putin now does much in the same, it is a far more pessimistic message he is sending out, seemingly with little hope in those messages. Something we hear frightfully little of in our own American conservatives who are running for president. And let me tell you, a scary bunch of people they are, too.

Russians, Kasparov said, love hearing these messages from Putin, apparently not noticing the overly pessimistic slant to them or worse their total lack of hope. Then when they go to their fridge for food, there is little there. We are hearing something similar here from candidates like Donald Trump and others in his party. And when we go to the fridge, we too find little there. Or even if we have much there, we have little money for anything else.

Just what then does this nationalism really get us? How and who is going to fill our larders with food and start putting money back into our pockets when most of our social programs are being cut and the money those need goes instead to the military? Both in Russia, and in America. We are more alike than we think.

Oddly enough, even as we in America hear the same message from our own conservatives, the UK is hearing similar messages there, as is France, and others.

This doesn't seem to be only the province of President Putin but more and more, of conservatives and nationalists the world over. It is a dangerous and destructive thing they are doing. Dangerous to the citizens of these countries who buy into it. And to those who do not buy into it and yet, do nothing even though they see what is happening. Not to mention the rest of the world who are on the receiving end of these nation's military endeavors.

Do we really need this? Does the average citizen of these countries really need to sacrifice their food and pay for national military efforts again and again?

If we, if our leaders, were doing their jobs properly, effectively, why do we keep having wars? When politics fail, war ensues. Yes we are faced with war now, but should this be? What are the roots and how did we get here? How do we not get here the next time? We seem to have war after war after war and so someone, has to be screwing up badly. Otherwise we'd have no war. Perhaps it is our priorities that are confused? Perhaps nationalism isn't working for any of us? Yes, have pride in your country and leaders. Just be sure you are having the right amount, and an accurate view of things.

Surely the world has become a complicated place of late and it has been building into it for years. And yes, the United States has had more than a little to do with it thanks to the American Bush family from Texas, three Bush administrations and after 9/11, an illegitimate war on Iraq that entirely disrupted the Middle East.

Not that believe it or not, America is fully to blame for all that has followed.

Those individuals running Iraq as well as Afghanistan (and Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya and others) also have some responsibility. As do the factions of Islam in their sectarian endeavors aginast one another and anyone else trying to help or guide them out of their religious and more so, tribal nonsense.

But that is getting off point.

In America we are seeing right wing conservative groups pulling stunts like refusing to follow the law, to pay their fair (though they would say, unfair) share for what they have gotten from American citizens, from thee government of their nation they profess to not even believe in. Like children railing against their parents who just may know what's best for them.

We have a conservative right wing political party here in the GOP, the Grand Old Party which I've taken to calling the Gray Old Party in its being run mostly by delusional old, white men; our Republican party, with their evangelical right ultra conservative Christian base, their nutty and incorrectly labeled "Tea Party" who push for things that are further off into the unreal and dysfunctional zones.

We have these people trying to push nationalism and the rich on us. Let's go to war, kick out immigrants they say, stop immigration, treat all Muslims as if they are all radical and dangerous. For us to give even more to the rich, to corporations, to not worry about how much food we have, because... the rich will take care of us if we just turn control over to them and let them do what they want?

Right. And how is that working out for us all so far? How is that working out for Russians so far?

There is a lot of talk here about socialism. In America, it has for many conservatives become the new Communism fear. A fear of children against images in the dark. Even pop star and Canadian Justin Beiber has said that America is evil because people can go bankrupt or even die because of our healthcare cost situation. It is insanity that people should have so  little in a country with so much.

The need here isn't for socialism, but for a reign in on capitalism. Socialism is a thread in that governor, that control. EVERY government has socialism imbedded in it, otherwise it is not a government.

The only functional government is a hybrid of many forms, not a single form. Purity is death in many things and is most functional in theories rather than practice. It has it's place, but apparently it is not in government, or in race for that matter. European monarchs have proven that inbreeding point long ago. And any dog or horse breeder will tell you pure purebred lines are dysfunctional.

We have to ask ourselves, which is more important to us? The feel good impact of our leaders spewing nationalistic nonsense, demonizing those different from us or new to our country? Or real efforts to do the hard work, to apply brilliant minds to see more food and money into the pockets of the citizens?

Who is more important in the end?

The Leaders? The Oligarchs? The Rich? They are self important enough on their own without the help of the majority of citizens who will never see that kind of prosperity and yet, we all deserve to live good lives, with little strife and a degree of happiness and security. Don't we?

Security does not come from war, fear, and pessimism. Control of the people does.

Why is Putin expanding Russia in actions taking over places like Ukraine, destabilizing regions, when his people need food and money? Just as we've seen in America leaders distract us from the real problems with perceived problems.

Just as was described in the 1949 George Orwell book, 1984. Leaders need to have or invent enemies in order to control the people, especially during times of hardship when the answers are difficult or will drain power from the leaders.

What IS the answer then?

In Russia, from what we've seen, from what Russian citizen Kasparov has seen, it is certainly not Putin.

Unless President Putin suddenly changes and starts to actually support his citizens and starts putting more money back into their pockets, to give them a more hopeful message, then maybe, he can be the answer. Are you seeing him do that?

In America, it is certainly not Trump. Certainly not Republicans or the conservative or sad religious ideals being put forth by them. Though I have to say, if I had to choose between Putin and Trump, I might not vote for Trump.

Religion has been a big ugly monster these past decades, past hundreds and thousands of years. But I'm not here today to deride religion, just those religious ones, those factions who are evoking dissension, death and destruction. Not within religions themselves, whatever religion you choose to look at, but in how they interact with the world, with innocent people who are dying...for no real good reason, at their hand.

We need realism, hope, help and action. Not war and disinformation, distraction and delusion.

The world needs peace.

Sure, there are places where we need to act in a military manner as against those such as Daesh \ ISIL. But some of that, perhaps most of that is also economically based. People just want to live their lives in peace and prosperity. In regions where oil prices are dropping as in oil producing countries around the world, like Russia, times are hard. And they are only going to get harder.

I remember decades ago, in the 1970s, talking about getting off of oil and my own thoughts about what then in those countries? When they have no more income in a country with oil or opium as their only viable industries. Then what?

Something needs to be done.

No one knew what to do, knew what new industries could save those people and here decades later, still nothing has been done for them. Just more war. Just tribe's infighting. Like children in their hatred and sad beliefs that have been peppered in many cases by outside nations. Including America, and yes, Russia too. Is the answer simply to have war until they no longer exist? People are dying.

We need to start holding our leaders accountable.

We need to start making it clear to conservatives, to nationalists, to nay sayers, to the pessimists, to those who are trying to govern us through fear that we are not going to be cowed any longer, to act like we do not know what is going on. We will no longer be frightened. We are not children and no longer wish to be treated as if we are.

We want real, substantive action. Action that will increase our well being and not just that of those in charge in order to cement their power and money. We need to make it clear that if they do not act appropriately, they are out and will lose their power and money, regardless and anyway

We the people of American, of Russia, even of the Middle Eastern countries and elsewhere, need to make it clear that we are the many and we want change, and hope. We are not stupid. We just act that way at times. We are not sheep and we need to stop acting like it.

We are not the ground upon which the rich and powerful can walk on any longer.

We have hope. Even if they won't give us any.

We all need to know that it still exists, hope does. That it will always exist. We cannot let anyone talk down to us any longer and be so pessimistic that we turn over all our rights for perceived or implied protection. Or to let them fire us up into a frenzy against other citizens of the world who are also being abused.

Life is tough. Do we really need to be the cause of it to be tougher on others? To turn their suffering into filthy lucre for those in charge, in control and who own everything anyway?

We all need to come to understand that we are no longer a world of nations but a world nation, a nation of the world. We have got to start seeing things that way.

Act locally, but consider the entire world. "Think Globally, Act Locally" as the old saying goes. And be not afraid. Do not let them bully you. You do not have to act overtly so that they find you. But act. Do something. Think correctly. Think usefully. A grassroots response after all is strong and controls best.

We need to control our governments, not let them control us any longer. We need to not fear our governments, but they need to, if not fear us, then begin to respect us.

In closing....

"When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."

Frequently attributed to American President Thomas Jefferson. However the web site dedicated to him, says this about it:

Comments: One source attributes this quotation to Jefferson in The Federalist.4 The Federalist, however, was the work of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, not Thomas Jefferson; nor does The Federalist contain the text of this quotation. This quotation is vaguely similar to Jefferson's comment in an 1825 letter to William Short: "Some are whigs, liberals, democrats, call them what you please. Others are tories, serviles, aristocrats, &c. The latter fear the people, and wish to transfer all power to the higher classes of society; the former consider the people as the safest depository of power in the last resort; they cherish them therefore, and wish to leave in them all the powers to the exercise of which they are competent."5 To date, however, the most likely source of this quotation appears to be a series of debates on socialism published in 1914, in which John Basil Barnhill said, "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty."

Do not believe everything you are told, everything that our leaders have said to us and others, and do not believe everything our leaders say directly to us. Also do not be paranoid. Strive to see the reality between the words. Rational, intelligent, informed, those are the things that supply us  with what actually is going on all around us. 

We are the people, you and I.

Whether in America, UK, France, Russia, Ukraine, Middle East...we have to remember who is the power, even when those above us try to tell us otherwise. Feel empowered and make use of that.

Never ever lose hope.

But hope doesn't come about by accident, or inaction. But through pride, honesty, action and compassion. That is to say, through humanity. Even a thought, or a small act can take the Butterfly Effect and far from us evoke action worthy of the original and initial intent.

Two things will always win out in the end:

Truth. And Humanity. 

All the others are just distractions from our eventual and hopeful destinies. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Comedy, Chaos, Correctness

I've said many times before that some people just seem to have trouble with counter-intuitive thought. Many of those people seem to be fundamentalists, conservatives and in this country typically, Republican.

Most especially I agree with actor John Cleese in saying that fundamentalism is easily viewed as silly, more easily laughed at and all for good reason.

And laughter is the best medicine. We have become dour, too conservative, too politically correct in our orientation and fear of offending anyone. People have been speaking out on this. On how our fear and political correctness has gone off the tracks. People like comedians like Louis CK and Jerry Seinfeld. And when someone like Jerry says it, we should really pay attention.

I'm not talking about hurtful comedy, I'm talking about comedy doing what it should do. It should question our mores. It should cause some chaos. At least, but mostly and simply, in you mind.

Some comedians are railing against people like Louis and Jerry but they are missing the point (and being unknowns, trying to make their own marks no doubt). Comedy should challenge us, it should question our positions and it should make fun of our stupid behaviors and actions.

I've heard it mentioned several times this past year using actor and comedian Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden's catch phrase on his old short lived 1955-6 TV show The Honeymooners, The show only ran for one season but it ran seemingly forever in syndication.

"One of these days Alice, Pow! Straight to the Moon!"

It is an indicator of how things have changed up till now regarding violence against women and infers how back then it was more socially acceptable for a man to hit his wife.

I think however that some people misunderstand that reference. Actually, we owe Gleason a big thanks for bringing that out on this show. Because it wasn't sanctioning the behavior of wife beating, we weren't laughing at and condoning that behavior (though surely some did).

Still, it was bringing it to light in a 1950s conservative society where people simply didn't talk about it whenever it did happen. It was swept under the run, ignored, it made people uneasy and they didn't know what to do or how to handle it and the laws reflected that. That being in a time when children and wives were still very much considered chattel, property, in a dying holdover of more ancient and unenlightened times.

Gleason made not light of it, but fun of it. And the initial sign of the death of behaviors is laughing at it.

As example, in the 1800s the books about Dracula and Frankenstein came out. In the early 1900s the films about those monsters came out, scaring audiences everywhere. By the mid 1900s films were making fun of such monsters in films like Abbott and Costello Meet the Frankenstein (in 1948 and another with the Mummy in 1955).

We are fearful of things until we outgrow them and then we start to make fun of them. Sometimes the first step to devalue our fears and overcome them is to make light of them and then outright laugh at them and make fun of those who make us of them.

It made a wife beater and that kind of a man look foolish. We laughed at him, sometimes uneasily, bu we laughed. It allowed us to look at something like that in a less tense moment, giving it not the avoidance behavior it usually evoked, but distance enough to view it, and in the back of our minds, even later on and over time, when we could consider it more judiciously, to view it openly and derisively.

No one ever thought Ralph was actually going to hit or hurt his wife, and many thought if he did, Alice would end up having the last word anyway. It was obvious he loved her and her continued love, support and her own derision of his actions allowed us to realize that he must be worth viewing than sometimes his words and actions would indicate.

I don't doubt there were some men back at the beginning of that show who thought he should hit his wife at times, but I'm willing to bet that by the end of that show's single season run, even those men thought differently than at the beginning.

Comedy can have that kind of healing effect.

Archie Bunker on All in the Family was a more recent version of all this. That show on television back in the 1970s put political correctness on its head and in a tailspin. Political correctness can be misleading at times and we have to consider that.

Of late many comedians are refusing to do even stand up comedy on the college comedy circuit because students are so lost in their morass of political correctness. Wake up! There is more beyond comedy than the obvious and direct and we do need to laugh and laugh hard sometimes, at our ridiculousness.

It has been said that pain + time = humor. What is wrong with that and what could be better than understanding that and applying some social conscience to it to positively evoke change? But it has to be allowed, in order for it to happen. We have to allow ourselves the discomfort to laugh at what isn't politically correct first for it's magic to come to fruition. Let it happen.

Maybe it didn't affect change completely back then in Gleason's day (though for some it did). Still, in the realm of the history of comedy and our country it certainly has. It was a first crack, a step up out of, one more step into our evolution in comedy and our overall social consciousness, that eventually allowed Archie Bunker to arrive on the scene. And from Archie came so much more change.

But what do we have now?

Will be another? Can we ever get over ourselves, our current infection of over political correctness?

Jackie Gleason, "The Great One" as he was called, we thank you.

It is out fondest hope that one day, soon, another will eventually take your place.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

Can there be a greater gift
than to know an old year done,
while a new one sits waiting,
with the end of the old
and hope that springs forth from it?

I think not!

I wish you all the best in this new year!

Happiness and prosperity.

If it is not happening for you, make it happen. But bring others along with you and do not step on their heads to achieve your own happiness. Otherwise, it is a sour happiness indeed.